We can now add to that list the Constellations Workshop in Colwick, Nottingham, a project that provides employment – making studio furniture, fittingly enough – for out-of-work musicians.
It was here, after-hours, that the music on Brown Fang’s impressive and ear-catching debut album took shape.
Both members of Brown Fang, bassist John Thompson and guitarist Henry Scott AKA Henry Claude, have a long association with the Constellations Workshop. Though their musical projects are manifold – Thompson has toured with countless bands, including The Nectarine No9 and The Selecter, while Scott records ambient music as Fang Jr and is a mainstay of the Nottingham jazz circuit – the work provided by the community-minded project has kept their heads above water and allowed them a space to record in when the shutters go down and the bandsaws get switched off.
Yet the music showcased on ‘Sherwood Pines’ is more morning-fresh and sun-kissed than industrial and sawdust-sprinkled. Combining the pair’s brilliant musicianship – think languid bass guitars and Pat Martino-esque jazz guitar licks – with saucer-eyed electronics, occasional downtempo drum machine rhythms and plenty of glistening special effects, the set’s eight tracks are as blissful and becalmed as an early morning saunter through Sherwood Forest on a misty autumn morning.
For proof, check epic opener ‘Tracing Paper’, a slow-build ambient soundscape in which bubbly electronic lead lines and colourful chords sashay around Scott’s sparkling, laidback guitars, and the beguiling ‘That’s All You Can Think’, a subtle tribute to Steve Reich masterpiece ‘Electric Counterpoint’ in which slow-burn, stretched out synthesizer sounds wave in and out of a gradually evolving cycle of delay-laden electric guitar motifs.
The band’s love of classic American minimalism – as well as a shared love of the Duratti Column and Robert Fripp – comes to the fore on ‘HDMI Love You’, which boasts a deliciously dubby bassline, Tangerine Dream style synths and the deepest of ambient chords, while ‘I Nearly Married a Human’ and ‘Fridgewords’ balance bespoke electronics – languid, dewy eyed and comforting – with Scott’s gorgeously laidback, slow-release guitars.
Every great album needs a triumphant conclusion, and Sherwood Pines is no different. You can hear everything that makes Brown Fang great on ‘Goodbye Donkey Jacket’, from the pin sharp, effects laden jazziness of Scott’s guitars and the fluid dexterity of Thompson’s bass, to the pleasingly spacey pulse of the synths and the gentle rhythms of the soft-focus machine drums. It’s a confident, ear-catching conclusion to a debut album that’s been years in the making.